Frequently Asked Questions about Multimedia Writing (JOU 3109)

Multimedia Writing is designed to provide students with instruction and hands-on experience writing in a variety of media formats. You will write news stories, features and news releases. You will conduct interviews and conduct relevant research. You will create and maintain a blog and set up a Twitter account. Both the blog and your Twitter account will be part of your professional portfolio. You will take photographs for use in course assignments. The course is required by students majoring in Journalism or Public Relations and is a prerequisite for taking Reporting (JOU 3101).

Here are some of the questions I am asked about the course. Please read to see if this information can answer questions you have about the course.

Q: I’m enrolled in the course, but the lab time isn’t convenient for me. Can I change sections?

A: Due to the computerized scheduling system, I cannot change students’ assigned labs. The labs are capped at 20 because that’s the number of computers in each computer lab. That number of computers is based on the national accreditation standards for hands-on writing labs. You can try to change your lab through ISIS, rearrange your other activities to accommodate your lab schedule, or drop the course and try again another semester.

If you have a serious scheduling issue, you can email or talk with Prof. Ted Spiker, the Journalism Department chair. He can make lab changes.

Q: I’m new to UF and confused about the class times. Can you help me figure out my schedule?

A: Here’s a link to UF’s list of class times —
You’ll be in lecture twice a week for 50 minutes each and in your lab for a three-hour block.

Q: How difficult is Multimedia Writing?

A: Multimedia Writing does have expectations that may differ from previous writing courses you previously have taken, which is why you may find the course to be difficult. For about half the assignments, you’ll be writing on deadline. You may be writing in a new writing style if your previous writing experience has been writing essays, fiction or research papers. Media writing requires short sentences, clear sentence structure and omission of the writer’s personal opinion or writing embellishments. Some students have difficulty adjusting to this new writing style. Points are deducted for every grammatical and spelling error. Those grading standards are more stringent than the grading most students have experienced in high school English classes or Freshman English.

Q: What can I do to be as successful as possible in the course?

A: One of the most important steps in being successful in the course is to take action every week to be as effective as you can be in the course. Too often students wait until later in the semester to start taking steps to improve their grades. At that point, they can improve their grades somewhat but not as much as if they had started from the beginning of the course to be proactive.

You can start some of these activities even before the course begins.

Read the style of writing that you will be writing — Start reading news 20-30 minutes a day with emphasis on news stories. Reading sports and entertainment stories is OK, too, but that won’t be the kind of writing that you will be asked to do in JOU 3109. Read blogs related to journalism or public relations. Find the people in the field who are doing the kind of work you’d like to do and follow them on Twitter.

Practice good writing and editing with everything you write — Beginning now, be more precise in your wording and take time to proofread. Even if you’re sending an email to your folks or a friend, practice using correct capitalization and grammar. Proofread every email before you hit “send.”

Purchase the textbooks and keep up-to-date on the reading assignments – Check the link on the top of the blog for the three course textbooks. We will be using all of them. Keep up with the assigned readings. You aren’t just preparing for the quizzes and exams over the texts, but those readings will help you be prepared for each week’s writing assignment.

Attend lectures – I use the lectures to introduce writing styles and specific lab writing assignments. We’ll analyze writing examples and discuss key points from the chapters.

Take advantage of resources — Check the Resources link on the site for online and in-the-college sources of help.

Take Cleaning Your Copy — You can earn five points of extra credit to be added to your grand total of lab points by completing an online grammar and word use course. Go to http://newsu.org and create an account. Click on the Courses link and then search for “Cleaning Your Copy” and enroll in the course. Once you begin the course, you may stop at any time and then return to work on the course later. Complete every section except Style.  That section is on Associated Press style, which you will be using starting in Lab 3. However, you can work on that section later. For now, focus on the grammar and word use sections. Completing the course should take one to two hours. In lecture, I’ll explain what you need to do after completing the course to receive the extra-credit points.

We’ll talk about tips for success in lecture and lab. Many of these tips are really common sense — budgeting your time in lab to edit your work, meeting with your lab instructor during office hours, and being rested and fed when you arrive in lab so you’re alert and ready to go.

Q: I have read the syllabus and I’m a bit nervous about the course. I have no experience with any sort of journalism writing or interviewing. Any advice? 

A: You’re not alone. About two-thirds of the students in JOU 3109 don’t have experience in journalistic writing. The course is designed with new-to-media-writing students in mind. The readings, lectures and lab assignments are designed with a starting-from-the-basics approach. [We also think about the third of the students with media experience. We want those students to have opportunities to expand their media skills, too.]

The course is designed to help you prepare for traditional journalism and public relations jobs and to help you consider other non-traditional media careers.  You’ll develop skills for writing clearly and concisely for a variety of audiences. You’ll practice interviewing, which will be useful whether you are interviewing a source for a story or meeting with a client about a public relations initiative. You’ll learn how to write news releases, create a blog, and use Twitter for promoting events.

With today’s shifting media landscape, you will be learning skills that can help you in a variety of occupations – including some that haven’t been invented yet.

My advice is to move your anxiety to action. Let me expand and reinforce on my previous answer.

  • Do all the readings when assigned. Don’t wait to do the readings until we have a quiz or exam. Then in lecture, ask questions or bring up points from the chapter. I ask for class input and would welcome your contributions.
  • Do the practice exercises at the end of the chapters. I won’t assign the exercises, but they can be helpful in preparing your for lab, as some of the exercises are very similar to what we’ll be doing as lab assignment. You can take your practice work to the Communication Coaching Center (1088 Weimer Hall) to go over with the coaches or can take the practice to your lab instructor for discussion during office hours.
  • Complete the Mechanics Inventory Form. I’ll post this form on the blog for you to download and print. After you receive each graded lab assignment, complete the form – correctly spelling each word your misspelled or determining why the word was the incorrect word (such as affect instead of effect). Determine what the grammar rule is that governs your error, such as why you had a comma splice. What you want to do is learn from every error you make so that you don’t make that error again. If you can’t determine why you made an error, meet with your lab instructor during office hours.
  • Read, read, read the kinds of writing that you will be doing. We’re starting with basic news writing. Read news stories every day and analyze the writing style and story structure. That will help you model that kind of writing with lab assignments.
  • Make yourself take time to proofread every assignment. If you have 90 minutes in lab to work on an assignment, you should spend at least 15-20 minutes proofreading. Most students in the course lose at least a letter grade in the course due to grammatical, AP style and factual errors they make. Those errors could be avoided by: (1) learning grammar rules (especially comma rules) and (2) allocating time to proofread.

The course will help you learn to be an accurate writer who can write for a variety of purposes and audiences. Whatever your post-graduation plans, you should find this course valuable in helping you be a better writer.

I look forward to working with you this semester – Dr. Julie Dodd